A legacy defining moment for business leaders

Getty Image
Getty Image
Anna Gowdridge the Human At Work Director for Virgin Unite posing on a balcony
by Anna Gowdridge
17 July 2020

The global resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement has shone a spotlight on the role everyone must play in driving change. CEOs and corporate leaders have a responsibility to act beyond issuing, very necessary, statements in support of the movement. Business leaders need to play a key role in making deep, structural changes to ensure we don’t go back to the way things have always been done. Growing public demand and new resources are helping lead the way. 

Whilst the global resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement was sparked by the killings of black Americans, structural racism touches many aspects of American life. In education, historically segregated neighborhoods suffer from underfunded schools and a lack of extra-curricular opportunities and resources. In health, Black and ethnic minority communities are more likely to contract COVID-19 and less able to access adequate care. And in business, measurable racial bias continues to shape who is hired, who is  promoted, or which entrepreneurs see investment regardless of qualifications or skills.

A recent JUST Capital survey found that 75-85% of Americans strongly believe that companies should not only be publicly condemning structural racism, racial injustice, and police violence, but that they should be taking concrete steps to change themselves.

The wave of statements from business in support of the Black Lives Matter movement conveys the right sentiment, but business leaders now need to look carefully at the actions they can take. It isn’t always easy to know where to start when seeking to build an actively anti-racist organisation. JUST CapitalPolicyLink and FSG have just launched a CEO Blueprint for Racial Equity, which provides a bold set of vital steps to address the root causes of inequality and achieve equity in companies, communities, and broader society.

Image from Just Capital
Image from Just Capital

The Blueprint focuses on action in those domains where businesses can exercise considerable influence, including 1) inside the company, 2) within communities, and 3) at the broader societal level. To really effect change, business leaders need to take a hard look at their organisation, how it might have benefited from racist systems, and how it needs to fundamentally alter the ways in which it does business.

The collaboration between Just Capital, PolicyLink and FSG is just the beginning, with the aim of working in partnership with others to develop practical tools and guidance. As we identify the steps Virgin and our business partners can take to become more antiracist companies, we plan on working in partnership with these leaders to show the way forward. 

Please take the time to read the CEO Blueprint for Racial Equity to understand what policies and practices can help your company become actively anti-racist.

Anna Gowdridge is the 100% Human at Work Director at Virgin Unite. The 100% Human at Work Initiative focuses on leading cutting edge thinking and innovation in the 'people' space through their global community of companies, working together to drive and shape the Future of Work. To learn more about the 100% Human At Work network and their efforts to create a better future of work – with support from Virgin Unite and The B Team – read more blogs from our content series.